Focussing on your fitness and getting involved in sports can be great for your overall health. However, there will be many times when you are put at risk from an acute, overuse or accidental injury. If the damage from the injury is serious, you will need to seek immediate professional medical attention. But if it’s a minor sprain or strain, you should consider treating the injury at home using P.R.I.C.E therapy and the acronym stands for: Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
The principles of P.R.I.C.E. should be used for the first 48 – 72 hours immediately after the injury. The goal during this time frame is to control the amount of swelling to the injured area, prevent further injury, and reduce pain. Following these principles can effectively reduce the amount of swelling in an injured area thereby reducing the amount of time required for rehabilitation which is key for getting back to sport quickly.
The first principle is protection and the purpose is to avoid further injury to the area by protecting the injured structures. The type of protection used varies depending on the injured area but may include an ace bandage, aluminum splint, sling, protective tape, or over-the-counter brace.
Rest is the second component and the purpose of resting is to allow the body’s own healing processes to naturally occur without being impeded by movement of the injured area. Any increase in movement of an injured tissue results in increased circulation to the area which in turn may result in further damage to the injured tissue and/or increased swelling.
Ice is another component of the P.R.I.C.E. principle. There are a number of types of cryotherapy that can be used effectively to treat injuries. Ideally, ice packs are made of crushed ice because the crushed ice is more comfortable for the athletes and conforms to the contours of the injured area better than cubed ice. Ice can be placed into plastic or Ziploc bags. A light barrier should be placed between the skin and the ice bag (paper towel) to prevent injury to the skin during the application of the ice.
When the ice pack is removed, a compression wrap should be applied to the injured area. The compression wrap serves as a mechanical barrier so that swelling is minimized in the injured area. There are a number of compression wraps available on the market, but the most commonly used is an elastic or ace bandage.
The last component is elevation which is important immediately post-injury to reduce the amount of blood flow to the injured area. For the lower extremities, the athlete can elevate his/her leg by lying down and elevating the injured limb on pillows. The key is that the athlete needs to have the injured area above his/her heart level.
Following the PRICE principles is an effective way to minimize the swelling in an injured area so that the athlete can return to play quickly.